The Decline and Fall of the Romanov Dynasty
In 1894, Tsar Alexander III died suddenly of Kidney failure at a very young age. His son, Nicholas II took over the position (he was only 26) through succession, not knowing that he would soon become the tsar who brought the Romanov rule to an end after more than 300 years of autocratic rule.
The same year, Tsar Nicholas married Princess Alix (Alexandra) of Hesse-Darmstadt. The marriage was a love match. The couple were a perfect example of complete love for one another but, when one is a ruler of an empire, unquestionable love is not always a good thing. During the first years of the marriage, the Tsar would not even upset his wife by complaining about his problems to her. He was once quoted in saying the following to his brother-in-law "I am not prepared to be a Tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling".
Tsar Nicholas soon decided (or knew no other way) that he would rule the same as his father, and all the Romanov generations before him ruled, with absolute power. He decided to rule this way because he saw no need for change - 'it's worked for nearly 300 years, why change now?' the tsar was once quoted saying. What the Tsar didn't realize is that he is ruling with a 17th Century mind-set, and it was now the 20th century.
In 1895, the first of 5 children were born, Olga. Later in 1897 Tatiana is born, 1899 Marie, 1001 Anastasia is born and in 1904 Alexis, the only son was born. Alexis was born with a disease know as hemophilia - when a sufferer is cut, the blood flow is not stopped by the blood forming a scab. This potentially deadly disease was devastating to the family, who considered telling the public about it by decided not too. They decided this because Tsars were looked upon as divine, God-given people. If it was known that Alexis has a deadly disease, the public may loose faith in the ruling family. Even if the public accepts the disease, they may not see him fit to be a ruler of the empire.
1905 was a watershed year for Russia. A group of intelligentsia in Russia decided to voice their discontent with the Tsar over low literacy rates. This embarrassed the Tsar and he lost a lot of confidence from the people. The Tsar found a solution to the problem. Russia and Japan had been trading in Korea and China. Both Russia and Japan thought they deserved the trade agreement. So how did they think the matter would be resolved? By war of course! The Tsar thought the war would be quick and he would gain so much out of it - it would raise his popularity, they would get the trade agreement and it would avoid further criticism of him. Contrary to his expectations, the Japs totally destroyed his fleet, only 3 ships were able to make it back to Port Arthur. This seriously weekend the Tsar's prestige, destroyed agricultural distribution and increased unemployment. This rapid decline in popularity gave way for minor political parties in Russia to voice their solutions and ultimatums to the public about the political structure of Russia.
The increase in unemployment caused strikes. At the same time, factory workers had had enough of the terrible working conditions and low pay they had to endure. They were also demanding civil liberties such as freedom of speech, an 8 hour day and the alleviation of poverty through the introduction of income tax. On 22nd January, 1905, 150 000 workers, under the leadership of Priest Gapon, marched up the Nevsky Prospect in St Petersburg to the Tsar's winter palace. When the Crowd had passed the Alexander Gardens, they heard a bugle, the traditional call of a cavalry charge. The marchers came to a stand still. A group of cavalry rode towards them and fired a warning shot into the air. Soon after, they fired a shot into the crowd which cause huge panic. This event caused many of the Tsar's followers to turn against him. From then on the Tsar was known as 'Nicholas the bloody'. The end toll of 92 dead and...
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